What is birth control?
Birth control, or contraception, simply means the various techniques or devices that people use to prevent pregnancy. About 62% of women of reproductive age in the United States use some form of contraception.
As a reminder: pregnancy happens when the man’s sperm reaches and fertilizes one of the woman’s eggs. So how does birth control work? Basically, what birth control is meant to do is to stop the sperm from reaching the egg. This is achieved by keeping the egg and the sperm separated, or by stopping egg production altogether, or by stopping the fertilized egg (when the sperm reaches the egg) from attaching to the womb.
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There are different types of birth control, which gives you the freedom to discover what method is best for you! The following table displays the various birth control options listed by Planned Parenthood:
NB.: it is both the man and the woman’s responsibility to think about birth control. Neither of the parties should be dissuaded against using birth control against their will. Also, barrier methods such as condoms are very important for safer sex! So ‘no glove, no love’ if you are at risk of catching or transmitting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Is birth control affecting my sex drive?
It is generally agreed that there is no significant loss of sexual desire connected to hormonal contraceptive methods like for example the pill, the hormonal IUD, and the patch. However, most studies have focused on the pill, which means that there is not enough data on how other forms of hormonal contraception might impact your sex drive. What is more, most data published since the 1960s and 1970s have been conflicting and inconsistent. For example in 2016, researchers conducted a study where they surveyed nearly 2000 women who had started a new contraception method. The study found no particular change in sex drive in women using oral contraceptives, the hormonal patch, or the hormonal IUD. However, about 24% of women using the vaginal ring, copper IUD, contraceptive implants, or Depo-Provera shot did indeed report a reduction of their sex drive after 6 months.
It may be the case that for some women their sex drive is indeed affected by their contraceptive method, but experts believe that that is probably only limited to a small number of women. Rather, they have tried to come up with other factors that might be linked to a decrease of sexual interest. What is important to understand is that female sexual desire, or human sexual desire for that matter, is not always consistent, but changes over time and over different periods. So if you are experiencing such a period right now, don’t blame yourself! Indeed, our sexual responses may as much be affected by social, cultural and interpersonal factors as by hormonal factors. Some studies have even supported the possibility that psychological factors may influence your sex drive even more than your contraceptive pill.
So all of this is confusing, but the baseline is this: Because there is always a possibility that your sex drive may be affected by your birth control, health professionals wouldn’t dismiss your concerns. You know your body and you sexuality better than anyone else. If you notice an abnormal decrease in your libido and you suspect that this may be caused by your birth control, then by all means, you have the right to express your concerns to your GP or gynecologist and explore other options! But before jumping to conclusions about your birth control, you might want to stop for a second and take a moment to check up on yourself and see how you are doing: Have you been working too much lately? Are you stressed? Have you been getting enough sleep? Are you happy in your relationship? Are you still attracted to your partner?
Your sexuality is complex and multifaceted, and as with everything there are highs and there are lows. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ libido because everyone’s sex drive is different. Many people experience loss of sexual interest at some point, so don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help. Do talk to a health professional if your reduced sex drive distresses you and you feel uncomfortable with your birth control. There are plenty of other methods that might suit you better! However, do not neglect the impact of your physical and mental well being as this plays a major role in your love life too!
- Bedsider, ‘Is the pill killing your sex drive?’, [web blog], 15 March 2017, https://www.bedsider.org/features/1022-is-the-pill-killing-your-sex-drive (accessed 12 March 2019)
- NHS, ‘What is Contraception’, [website], 2019, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/what-is-contraception/ (last accessed 12 March 2019)
- Planned Parenthood, ‘Birth Control’, [website], 2019, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control (last accessed 12 March 2019)
- Schaffir, J., ‘Hormonal Contraception and Sexual Desire: A Critical Review’, Journal for Sex & Marital Therapy, vol. 32, no. 4, 2006, pp. 305-314